Upgrading their secondary is the Steelers' top priority this offseason, and that will include looking into signing free agent safety Eric Weddle.
According to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, the Steelers will explore signing Weddle, a free agent that will likely not return to the Chargers, his team for the first nine years of his career.
Weddle, 31, is a three-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro. Similar to Troy Polamalu, Weddle, who has 19 career interceptions and 74 career passes defensed, is for known for his impeccable instincts, his athleticism, and his ability to thrive both in pass protection and in run support.
But for the first time since 2009, Weddle failed to play in all 16 games, as injuries sidelined him for three games in 2015. He also failed to record an interception for the first time since his rookie season last fall, while recording just 53 tackles, also his lowest total since his rookie season.
Despite his decline in production last season, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is a big fan of Weddle, and praised the veteran safety prior to Pittsburgh's matchup in San Diego last season.
“I love Eric Weddle, always have,” Tomlin said. “He’s so versatile. He’s a sub-package linebacker. He plays strong safety. He plays free safety. He plays half-field, middle of the field. They blitz him. He’s a do-everything type of a player, and a good one.”
As always, money is a significant factor in free agency, and that might be the biggest determining factor when it comes to whether or not Weddle will become a member of the Steelers. But if negotiations get serious between the two sides, Pittsburgh might be willing to spend more than normal to acquire a player that should immediately upgrade the Steelers' secondary.
While Weddle didn't have a great 2015 season, DeAngelo Williams also didn't have a very good final season with the Panthers before the Steelers made him the best free agent signing of the 2015 offseason. Williams, who battled injuries during his final season in Carolina, was reborn in Pittsburgh, enjoying his best year in seven seasons while helping the Steelers win its first playoff game since the 2010 season.
Weddle could have a similar story in Pittsburgh, while possibly being one of the final pieces of the Steelers' Super Bowl puzzle.